Extreme profs

Toss your stereotypes of professors away. Derek Rodriguez meets five whose achievements in sports rival their academic accomplishments

There’s ice in his veins
Photos: Mark Teo
Assoc Prof Konstantin Pervushin
Biological Sciences

He grew up in a country where ice hockey is more religion than sport, and he has played the game for more than four decades. Today, in sun-soaked Singapore, he still dons his mask at JCube’s Olympic-size ice rink, where he struts his stuff in the local ice hockey league.

Ice age. In my home country, the Soviet Union and now Russia, ice hockey is a “cult sport”. When I was growing up, my brother and I managed to get admission to an ice hockey school. Together with him, I played for seven years in the youth league.

Fork in the ice sheet. At some point, I had to decide between a career in sports and one in science. I chose science as I excelled in mathematics and physics. I participated in physics Olympiads and even placed third internationally. The success was tangible. Then I entered the Moscow Physical Technical Unversity and later moved to Switzerland, where I played in amateur leagues.

Call of the rink. When JCube opened, I joined the local league and have been playing there since. Many of the players are professional expats and some have even played in the United States national ice hockey team and top ice hockey leagues.

Not for the feeble. I can see in my fellow ice hockey players that they are intrinsically competitive. They are all high-achievers – you should see the cars they drive! I’m still using my small motorbike to go to JCube.

Practice at dawn. To improve my game, I watch videos and read up. I work on my moves almost every morning on roller blades from 6.30am to 7.30am at NTU’s Sports & Recreation Centre. And then I use these moves on the rink.

Referee at work. I’m a certified International Ice Hockey Federation referee, so I also officiate some games. Sometimes it can be pretty tough, because the action is so fast and there are always disagreements. If you call a rule infraction against a big guy and he confronts you, you have to hold your ground and show him who ‘owns’ the game.
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All torn up. When I was in Switzerland, a huge guy rammed into my side at full speed. A knee ligament was torn and I had to undergo reconstructive surgery. I was out physically for about eight months and even longer psychologically. I was really afraid to get back on the ice. It took me three years to recover fully.

NTU’s very own ice hockey team? I asked NTU’s President, Prof Bertil Andersson, if we could organise an NTU ice hockey team and he said yes. He’s very supportive, but it’s hard to find players who already have experience in ice hockey. My hope is that we can drum up interest and find enough players to form NTU’s first ice hockey team.